revi ew e s say Reading the Sesquicentennial New Directions in the Popular History of the Civil War david s. reynolds 2011, the sesquicentennial of the outbreak of the Civil War, initiated an outpouring of books about the war that is likely to continue for the next four years, each of which will surely be greeted by its own commemorative volumes. My favorite book of 2011 was The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It (Library of America). This collection of primary documents--letters, speeches, sermons, diary entries, and so on--brings alive 1861 in its chaotic immediacy. This volume reminds us that history in real time, as it's happening, has a raggedness and an unpredictability that are lost when its fragments are assembled into a narrative or marshaled under a strong thesis. Still, we all know that zippy narratives and thesisdriven prose are far more palatable than a collage of antiquated texts of varying literary quality. It has long been the role of popular histories to make complex subjects understandable to the average reader--or at least to history buffs. The test of an effective popular history is one that can be both readable and original.
The Journal of the Civil War Era – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Aug 29, 2012